Columbia firefighters do a lot more than fight fires. In many cases, they are first responders to medical emergencies. But in Richland County, policy dictates that when the county Emergency Medical Service responds to a scene, only trained EMS personnel may drive the ambulance to the hospital.
A year and a half ago, WIS raised questions about this policy in an investigative series titled "When Seconds Count." We asked why, when both EMS employees needed to help a sick or injured patient, a city firefighter could not be permitted to drive the ambulance to the hospital. In all the counties surrounding Richland, firefighters can drive ambulances.
A year and a half later, the Richland policy has not changed. In a follow-up report last week, county officials said they would consider changing the policy if they heard from city officials. Mayor Coble said he just learned that the ball was in the city's court. Since then, Columbia's fire chief has sent a letter to the county giving permission for firefighters to be trained to drive ambulances.